Broadly defined, coaching is “a form of professional learning within the classroom or school that helps [educators] develop and apply new knowledge, make strong plans for instruction and assessment, obtain feedback, refine their practices, and examine results” (The University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, Learning Forward, & Public Impact, 2016, p. 5). In simpler terms, coaching provides educators with the support they need to apply a newly learned skill within their own context (Horner, 2018). Coaching differs from training or traditional professional development (PD) workshops that serve the purpose of developing new knowledge, because coaching focuses on the application of new knowledge over time. Coaching plays a vital role in the implementation of tiered support models to ensure fidelity of learned practices by educators and within systems (i.e., structures or supports provided by those individuals in leadership roles).  

There are different types of coaching: educator-level or instructional coaching and systems-level or team coaching. Induction coaching in Rhode Island refers to specific educator-level coaching in which new teachers are supported as they make the transition from pre-service programs to the professional setting. 

With MTSS  Rhode Island, the term "coaching" refers specifically to systems coaching.  The major difference with systems coaching is the focus on supporting systems change. Coaching within the MTSS  framework is aimed at developing the capacity of school- and district-based educators to lead large-scale systems change within their current placements. 

Some MTSS specific distinctions between educator- and systems-level coaching include the following:

The nature of the goals

  • Educator-level or instructional coaching activities support MTSS and DBI practices that lead to student learning.
  • Systems-level or team coaching activities support practices that lead to the overall functioning of a group of individuals gathered around supporting MTSS and DBI implementation (e.g., healthy routines for communication, discussion, and consensus building; defining roles and responsibilities; increasing implementation buy-in or engagement; common vision and expectations).
The nature of the relationship
  • Educator-level or instructional coaches work directly with an educator to shape their MTSS and DBI practices (e.g., data-driven instruction).
  • Systems-level or team coaches work with school teams or groups of educators and/or directly with a team’s facilitator to shape their practices (e.g., developing guidance and policies related to MTSS and DBI implementation).
male teacher coaching a female teacher
Regardless of the level (i.e., educator or systems), coaching occurs within the context of ongoing professional  learning and may be influenced by an educator or team’s familiarity with the practice or set of practices being coached.


man pointing at computer screen, guiding a diverse team of educators
As you can see, serving as the coach of the school or district MTSS team comes with its fair share of responsibilities. It's important to note that the coach is not an evaluator of any kind. The coach is there to provide guidance and support during systems change and implementation of MTSS, not to conduct individual evaluations on educators. Administrators must ensure that coaches have adequate time to serve in this role properly, including time to prepare for and run meetings, attend and engage with coaching supports provided through MTSS  Rhode Island, and complete action steps related to implementation.

MTSS  Rhode Island is here to support coaches leading the work in Rhode Island schools and districts. Through online coursework and webinars, as well as individualized one-on-one sessions, we're here to help identify, develop, and sustain coaches' capacity to lead teams in their settings. 

For more information, refer to Ongoing Professional Learning with Tiered Support Models (2019)

Ongoing Professional Learning Within Tiered Supports

Last modified: Monday, August 22, 2022, 6:59 AM